Adrian Tchaikovsky: Dragonfly Falling (Shadows of the Apt # 2). (Tor Books, 2009)
I really liked the first volume in this series – but what I liked the most, was the newness of the insect-kinden that made this book so very interesting. But the question of course was, if these kinden would hold up so that volume 2 would be up to the standards of the first volume. And the good news are – volume 2 is even better than volume 1.
So with how volume 1 ended, I expected that this one would focus on the Wasps military advances. And it did, to some extent, but more, the focus was on so many other things. Our band of heroes have split up so we jump around between them Some of the major points in this book is the battle for the ant city of Tark – a battle between the Wasps and the Ants, two very different kinds of kinden – and the battle between the Vekken Ants and the people of Collegium. Now, Collegium is an amazing city, with the College, the cultural and intellectual heart of the Lowlands. The Wasps know they have to take Collegium to prevent the Lowlands from putting aside old strife and uniting against them so they send Collegium’s old enemies to do so. An easy job – the excellent military against the old scholars and philosophers of Collegium. These two battles are very different indeed – and both showcase the differences between the kinden.
Another part of particular interest is Tissamon taking his half spider-half mantis daughter with him to the the most sacred part of the Mantis’ hold and letting her try out to become a weapon master. Mantis and spider hate each other so both face very uncertain destinies when Tissamon must face up to having betrayed his race by having a child with a spider woman and Tynisa, looking exactly as everything the Mantis hate the most.
But times are changing. Old strife and hatred have to be put aside to stop the Wasps.
This book again finds our heroes in dangerous positions – Salma and Totho are in Tark as the Wasps start attacking it and both find new paths in life, because of this. Stenwold of course, is very much involved in defending Collegium while Tissamon and Tynisa travel the before mentioned dangerous paths of the Mantis hold. Che and Achaeos suddenly find themselves on the battle line between the Sarn Ants and the Wasps – and Helleron falls to the Wasps. Even Colonel Thalric (Major Thalric of the Rekef) faces dangers he has never seen before – and new challenges and doubts.
One of my favorite things of this book was when Mosquito kinden was introduced. Naturally, the Mosquito we meet, is old and frail – but deadly and bloodthirsty.
And even though this is so-called light fantasy, he still manages to create fully fleshed characters with fears and doubts, gray areas in most of them – and he adds a bit of philosophy at times – like here: “/…/ there were the avatars of the kinden, the philosophical concepts that were the source of the Ancestor Art, but they were just ideas, aids to concentration. Nobody thought that they actually existed somewhere.” (p. 439) – somebody has read Plato. And there are some truths in this book: “There is no weapon so terrible that mankind will not put it to use.” (p. 286) – which especially Totho learns. And my favorite quote: “If we truly stand for what we believe is good, the betterment of others, the raising up of the weak and the lowly, then we must take a stand against those with opposing philosophies.” (p. 296). And so they do …
All in all, this is one exciting fast-paced book that picks up where book 1 left off – but does it even better. We’re not at 5 stars yet, but we’re closing in.